Policy Brief on the Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development

Earth System Governance Project • Sep 27th, 2011
Policy Brief on the Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development

The Earth System Governance Project is glad to release its new comprehensive Policy Brief Transforming Governance and Institutions for a Planet under Pressure. Revitalizing the Institutional Framework for Global Sustainability.

The Policy Brief offers a concise, cutting-edge assessment of the state of knowledge on the institutional framework for sustainable development and on possible reform options. It brings together various strands of research and schools of thought and will serve as key input of the scientific community in this field to the current preparations for the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (“Rio+20”).

This Policy Brief is one of nine policy briefs by the scientific community that were commissioned by the four global change research programmes (IHDP, IGBP, Diversitas and WCRP) as organisers of the international conference Planet under Pressure: New Knowledge Towards Solutions, which will be held 26-29 March 2012 in London (

Transforming Governance and Institutions for a Planet under Pressure has been written between April and September 2011 by a select international group of 31 leading senior governance experts from all over the world [list of authors], led by Prof. Frank Biermann, chair of the Earth System Governance Project.

Drafts of the Brief were presented and discussed in detail at various occasions with a wide range of scholars and practitioners, notably at the 2011 Colorado Conference on Earth System Governance. Draft versions have also been shared for comments with key policy-makers, the Science Committees of the four Global Change Research Programmes, and other stakeholders. [more information on the process]

A longer version of the assessment with a full list of references to the underlying scholarly literature will appear in an academic journal to be published at the Planet under Pressure Conference, as well as an Earth System Governance Working Paper. All versions, as well as some underlying documentation, are being made available at The core insights will also be presented at key international events, such as the intergovernmental preparatory meetings for the Rio+20 Conference and the series of regional consultations by ICSU.

This Policy Brief is a key product of the Earth System Governance Project’s initiative on the Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development and International Environmental Governance, contributing to the preparations of the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) – Follow the initiative on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter, for frequent news and information.

For questions and further information regarding the Policy Brief contact the assessment managers Andrea Brock, VU University Amsterdam ( or Ruben Zondervan, Earth System Governance International Project Office (

Tags: Earth System Governance Project,Planet under Pressure Conference,Policy Assessment on the Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development
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From the list of 31 leading

From the list of 31 leading senior governance experts around the "world", we see 14 from UE, 7 from US, 3 CAN, 1 JP, 1 Thai, 1 Bra and 1 SA.... 28 out of 31 are from North research centres, while no more than 3 from centres located in the South... even if we consider some 3 or 4 "northern" researches as "southerns" due to their cultural background and research profiles, still there's a hugh disparity in representation.

I am not questioning the quality of this policy brief, for sure these scholars are the prime you can find. But do you really expect that this report might be taken as "representative" for the "world" with such an unequal representation of institutions from third world countries? Do you really want to suggest an "earth governance systems" that still preserve the old and more and more questionned North->South prodominance?

It's time to open a bit the mind to lissen to 5 of the 6 billions people living on our Earth. The world crisis and the way Third World is dealing with it just proved how this is urgent.....

Global representation in research programmes

Dear Matheus,

Thank you for your comment. We share very much your concern about addressing global representation in research programmes, as you will see from our Science and Implementation Plan ( and other information on that website.

Our Project is actively addressing the challenge of broader representation (within the constraints of our very limited budgets). We aim to involve scholars from all career levels and from all continents and cultures (see upcoming and past events at the website). For example, we are organising a series of summer schools for PhD students, with financial support for scholars from developing countries, and regularly seek to provide travel support for Southern participants at our global conferences. We are also seeking to increase the share of Southern peer reviewers in the review system for our global conferences.

The authors of the Policy Brief are among the leading social scientists in their fields in terms of published research and policy assessments. As such, as in any scientific project, the composition of the team might not reflect full geographic representation of the world’s population, and in this, it does not differ from similar assessment programmes in other fields, such as the IPCC.

For this reason, we are working hard since the launch of the Project in 2009 to increase the number of researchers from developing countries involved in the project and we have succeeded in involving many early career scientists. Engagement of the more senior academics has been harder to secure. We would have very much liked it if more senior experts from the South had positively responded to our invitation to contribute to the assessment.

Overall, the Earth System Governance Project is a science programme, not an NGO or a UN body. We are working with all scholars, at all levels, who are currently active in studying governance processes that help to address mitigation of, and adaptation to, global environmental change.

It would be great to learn from your comments on the content, and very much invite you contribute to the discussion on the institutional framework on sustainable development. The more scholars weigh in, the more inclusive and balanced future assessments will become.

Earth System Governance & the leading experts

I agree with the comments made by Matheus above. There needs to be less interference from the developred world with respect to some aspects of governance, norms and  practices that are having the desired effect for the sustainable development of Communities and nations. The majority of the world is  developing or under-developed by western standards and more attention and input should be made by experts from these countries who are fully cognisant of the issues they face, possible solutions, some that have been in place for decades  and some developed through innovative and out of the box thinking by Governments, members of the Private sector, NGOs and Civil Society. The transfer of wealth from governments and more importantly from Private sector individuals and Companies who control the bulk of the world's wealth to developing countries,  is not happening. The question is what can be done with the limited resources and what is possible using all  national resources, that could make the difference.